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Human Rights

Proposed ‘Human Rights Bill’ in Zimbabwe is a farce.

The proposed Human Rights Bill in Zimbabwe, while showing glimpses of promise, is marred by omissions.

Firstly the good news. The bill recognises the necessity of independence from government  interference;

“Neither the State nor any person, body, organ, agency or institution belonging to or employed by the State, a local authority or otherwise, shall interfere with, hinder or obstruct the Commission, its Commissioners or any member of staff of the Commission, in the exercise or performance of its, his or her functions”.

However reports suggest that there are no details on the consequences of interference, nor does it include penalties to deter culprits. There are also other reports that seem to contradict the independence of the commission. It is reported that the Minister of Justice and the minister responsible for Finance will have some responsibilities pertaining to  the hiring of staff. This brings the very idea of independence into disrepute, how can an organisation be truly independent when it’s employees are chosen by the government? This reduces transparency and will lead to calls of corruption.

Perhaps the most disturbing piece of the proposed bill is that it appears to grant impunity to any human rights offences that occurred pre 2009.

“The commission shall not investigate a complaint provided that such investigation shall not relate to an action or omission that occurred earlier than the 13th of February 2009”

This appears to outlaw any investigations into numerous allegations and incidents, from the election violence in 2008 to the Gukurahundi violence in the 1980s.

Among those who would be granted impunity is Perence Shiri, who was the First Commander of the Fifth Brigade that killed around 20,000 civilians in the 1980s . He now serves as the commander of the Zimbawean  Air Force and his one of Mugabe’s closest allies. He is also believed to be one of the masterminds behind the violence against MDC supporters during 2008’s election.

The climate of impunity in Zimbabwe does not merely focus on sweeping allegations under the carpet but also punishes those seeking justice.  Moses Mzila-Ndlovu,  A co-Minister for the Organ of National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI), was imprisoned for making “outspoken comments about the Gukurahundi violence in the 1980s, and strongly argued for restitution for victims of that episode of state violence”.

Before Zimbabwe can re-engage with the wider international community it must first accept accountability within its own borders and bring to justice those who have committed atrocities.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Proposed ‘Human Rights Bill’ in Zimbabwe is a farce.

  1. It strikes me that this type of agreement is not unique, for instance when the Good Friday agreement was signed it allowed for the early release of prisoners providing that they had stopped any paramilitary actions. There has also been no action by the UK government to start legal processes on the soldiers behind bloody Sunday despite admitting that British troops had illegal killed civilians.
    This amnesty helped increase trust and paved the way for an end to the “Troubles” which had been raging for decades. It also created a massive improvement in human rights within Northern Ireland.
    It situation in Zimbabwe appears, at least to me, to be very similar to the situation in Northern Ireland and this could be a major step to improving the human rights record in the country.
    Essential what I’m getting at is that you seem to be saying that the pursuit of justice is greater than the humanitarian needs of the people.

    Posted by Andrew | August 1, 2011, 2:17 am
    • The are a couple of differences with the situation in Zimbabwe and that in Northern Ireland. Firstly the amnesty technique was used at the end of 1980’s and failed to provide a significant improvement in the human rights situation, opposition to the government is still arbitrarily arrested, the Human Rights Commission itself was attacked by Zanu-PF supporters with the police not offering any protection, and Perence Shiri is an embodiment of someone who has continued to commit crimes with repeated impunity.

      I personally feel that justice and humanitarian needs go hand in hand. If a person commits murder 20 years ago it is still murder. Furthermore by acting retrospectively in regards to human rights it has diplomatic benefits. When Serbia captured Mladic, it removed one of the obstacles for them to join the EU (There are many more obstacles before that happens so that’s probably not going to happen any time soon). At the moment the largest foreign investor in Zimbabwe is China who are merely concerned with gaining minerals rather than improving the humanitarian situation. If Zimbabwe seriously start to give indications of justice in regards to the massacres, land seizing and election violence, then a variety of diplomatic and economic prospects will open up. Lest us forget that Zimbabwe was once Africa’s bread basket.

      Posted by thomasoneill1990 | August 1, 2011, 10:33 pm

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